For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1665
Release Date: 4 July 2000
Assembly President Calls for Political Will, Resources and People-Centred Priorities to Eradicate Poverty, Hunger, Want and Fear

NEW YORK, 3 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the closing remarks -- delivered on Friday, 30 June -- of Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly on the implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives: 

I believed all along that we would do it, and we have succeeded in Geneva as well.

I also said that we were not going to renegotiate the outcome, decisions and commitments made in Copenhagen in 1995 towards sustainable social development and human security.

We cannot go backwards; we must move forward in earnest and meet the time-bound targets that were set in Copenhagen to make this a better world for all.

In all, we heard a total of 180 speakers in plenary:  159 United Nations Member States, two non-Member States, 10 observers and nine non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Speaker after speaker reaffirmed the complementary roles of government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other civil society operators, if human advancement and social justice are ever going to be sustainable and satisfactory to everyone.

With all this in mind, we have just adopted this document entitled “Proposals for further initiatives for social development”.

The list of renewed commitments is led by our deep-seated concerns about:

-- economic growth and democratization;
-- full employment;
-- debt cancellation;
-- women’s empowerment and gender equality; and
-- multilateral trade based on social justice and equity.

We stand especially in the face of the worst enemy in the world, namely HIV/AIDS.   Apart from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, this disease - AIDS – represents the near and present danger to the survival of humanity.  It is actually not a disease but a human disaster.  AIDS defies borders and spares nobody on account of race, creed, generation or gender.

Infectious diseases are, science and technology teach us, preventable and, in fact in some cases, curable.  Politics and greed stand in the way of saving lives.

Last year’s 13 million deaths from infectious maladies could have been prevented at a cost of $5 per person.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that over 23 million people are HIV-infected, representing 70 per cent of the global total.  Over 90 per cent of infected Africans are unaware they have HIV.  Fifty-five per cent of infected adults are women, while girls aged between 15 and 19 are six times more likely to be infected than boys.

Information abounds that basic health care has been sacrificed for economic restructuring in many developing countries.  A World Bank survey of 53 countries showed a 15 per cent average decline in health spending per person following structural adjustment.

Talking about human suffering, I want to repeat, once again:  Hands off children, women and United Nations peacemakers, peacekeepers and lifesavers wherever they serve humanity.  Their persecutors and those who hold them hostage by force must not be spared any mercy.  These criminals must face the full weight of the law.

Let us summon all the necessary political will, mobilize the requisite resources and focus on people-centred priorities to defeat poverty, hunger, want and fear from the face of the earth, once and for all.  Compassion, generosity and sharing are noble virtues that should govern human relations.

I repeat what I stated at the start of this special session, that those fortunate countries that benefited from early industrialization and are, now, in an ideal position to profit immensely from globalization, should acknowledge and assume the responsibilities towards the least fortunate that accompany their power and great fortune.

In concluding, I would like sincerely to thank my Vice-Presidents for their loyalty and high sense of duty.  The Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole, His Excellency Ambassador Cristian Maquieira of Chile, and his devoted collaborators expended sweat, tears and sleepless nights, in New York and in Geneva, to produce an excellent text that puts us in good stead to go forward and show results as we proceed.

The United Nations officials and staff worked hard and long to assure efficiency and good order.  I thank Mr. Jin, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, and his dedicated aides, including protocol and security officers, those from Headquarters and their colleagues in Geneva.

Now, all is said and done at this 24th special session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives.  Let us now turn away from this hallowed place of ideas and recommitment to act! 

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